4/20/2014

20 Years Not a Slave: Prince Re-Signs with Warner Brothers

Pop star Prince has a signed a major deal with Warner Bros Records, the label he famously fell out with nearly 20 years ago. The split was so acrimonious that Prince called himself a slave and changed his stage name to a symbol. Now Prince says the new deal will see a release of his classic album Purple Rain in time for its 30th anniversary. He will also regain ownership of master recordings made during his previous deal with Warner Bros.

"A brand-new studio album is on the way and both Warner Bros Records and Eye (sic) are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship," Prince said in a statement. - BBC News
He never should've left.

One of the very rare times we have ever sided with a record company over an artist—in this case, ahem, "The Artist"—was the Prince vs. Warner Bros mess. Of all the major labels, Prince had signed with the most open-minded and most invested in artist development. You think Columbia or MCA would've let a 19 year old kid produce himself on his debut album? Think again.

Over the years they let him do more or less whatever he wanted. All WB wanted was for him to pace himself, which was solid advice since we all know Prince badly needed a producer. (Or a firm A&R man.) Not to guide him in the studio but to be the one to say, "You know what? This song and that one are not up to snuff. Let's leave 'em off the album." But no.


Furthermore, Prince wanted to put out albums at a pace that would've made '60s artists blush. WB wasn't havin' it and rightfully so. WB is a business and in business you don't voluntarily water down the value of your assets by flooding the market with 'em. Plus, how special are the albums of an artist who puts one out seemingly every other month? So, WB balked. Prince responded in kind. But here's the thing: while it's not our place to question how a black man self-identifies, the "slave" thing was just plain wrong on so many levels.

Btw, we're not giving the record company a pass—WB also screwed up.

Listen, this guy is a superstar and on his way to becoming a legend. Plus, and more importantly in your case, he's made you a boatload of money—appease the dude. Make a deal to revert the catalog back to him at some point. Sweeten the pot. But no.

It took 20 years but I'm glad to see both sides in bed once again. Even though it seems like a former couple coming back to each other after not wanting to date anyone else at this stage of the game. Still, who else would they each be better off with?


[Thanks to Leo Susana for the heads up.]

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